Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years from the Crowsnest Pass

2008 is almost over it was a tough year, looking ahead 2009 will be even more challenging for the entire world, not just the Crowsnest Pass, being Canadians we will find away to get through it and eventually be stronger than we are today.

I hope everybody takes a moment to say a little prayer for the people of Sparwood BC (I lived in Sparwood from 74-82 and still have family there) its a great community, there is a lot of good people there who have not surprised me by the way they have rallied around those poor families.

Please enjoy the New Year Celebrations in a responsible manner and think of others when you can.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Inspection of Municipal council (Crowsnest Pass)

I have been asked by a number of people what an inspection of council (Corporate review) would look like. The Town of Pincher just had one completed the report is available at the address below.
http://www.pinchercreek.ca/residents/pressRelease.cfm?place=101

and then click on Municipal Inspection Report

I find especially interesting what the report has to say on Page 13 + 14 regarding municipal facilities being ran by a group other than council.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Budget Process in the Crowsnest Pass Update Dec 11

Well after five nights of reviewing our budget line by line, and giving our CAO and department heads the opportunity to defend their individual departments requests.
After making some huge steps to get our budget under control such as spending a half of a hour debating about whether we are going to charge or not charge our individual residents to remove deep freezes ($4300 this year).
We recognized that council is not going to resolve the almost $1.7 million dollar shortfall we have. So Council directed administration to bring us back a budget with an tax increase of no more than 6% for Jan 21.
Concern raised by administration that some of our service levels may be affected by restricting our tax increase to 6% I am sure that taxpayers will not lose sight of the fact that we increased taxes by 11.2% last year.
It looks like we are going to have to make some difficult choices or raise taxes by 6% or more!
The scary part is 86% of our tax base is residential, and after getting a update from our assessor commercial property as virtually increased by nothing in the last year so all of the tax burden is going to fall back on the residential home owner.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crowsnest Pass update on Ottawa Politics

Have a friend in Ottawa who as just updated me with the following rumors making the rounds in the political centre of our universe.

Michael Ignatieff is going to change his last name to one that more than 3% of Canadians can pronounce.

Bob Rae is stepping down to take the opportunity of a life time and lead the NDP provincially in Alberta.

The Conservatives/Harper are going to donate their $10 million dollars from the public purse to the automakers telethon the weekend before Christmas, and are challenging all other parties to do the same.

Elizabeth May will be announcing shortly that she will not take a position in the senate if the coalition defeats Harper, instead she is taking the opportunity of a life time to step down and lead the Green Party provincially in Alberta.

Jean Charest announces that now he as achieved all of his goals in Quebec he will be stepping down to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party, he is expected to face a stiff challenge from Belinda Stronach, now she as decided not to run for the liberal leadership.

Stephane Dion announces that he is moving to the Crowsnest Pass to achieve is long term dream of being the Communications Director for the Citizens to save the Crowsnest Pass

Monday, December 8, 2008

Budget Process in the Crowsnest Pass Continues

Well tomorrow night we are back at it. We will be reviewing Administration, Culture and Recreation departments Tuesday night Dec 9th. Followed up by Public Works Wednesday night Dec 10th.
Right now we are looking at a budget that is presently under funded by close to $1.7 million (that is the amount that taxes would have to increase if we did not cut anything.
Made up of the following:

Tax Shortfall --------------------$1,442,479
2007 Municipal deficit -----------$110,000
2007 Crowsnest Centre deficit ---$94,031
2008 Municipal deficit -----------$???????
2008 Crowsnest Centre deficit--- $???????

Total-----------------------------$1,646,510

Friday, December 5, 2008

New addition to my Blog

Snow is on the ground, almost ski season please check out on the left hand side under interesting blogs and websites. The Pass Powderkeg site, up until Dec 12 the ski hill is holding an half price sale on ski passes. Come and see one of the few places a family can ski right into downtown for a very reasonable price.

The saga of misinformation in the Crowsnest Pass

Word as it there is a new group in town called "The Citizens to Save the Crowsnest Pass" after two weeks of advertising and a flyer being stuck in all our mail boxes, they had a meeting Wednesday night. I am told that somewhere around 80 people showed up, part of their platform was "the vote on council being 4-3 (92% of the time)?" their words not mine. They seem to feel that democracy as been derailed (by people voting for what they believe in). In my last term on council there was a number of 4-3 votes nobody seem to have an issue with that. (Wonder why?)
Anyway it appears that this group is running around with a petition trying to seek municipal affairs to come in and do a review of our council. Which is more than welcome, in fact the majority of council as requested a full corporate review of our entire municipality. So when this group comes forth with thousands of signatures it will only emphasize that council should indeed proceed with this process.
Back to the issue one of my fellow councilors gave me some interesting numbers this morning, after reviewing the council minutes since the beginning of the present term. And understanding that our minutes do not show an actual score on motions made by council. They show either Unanimous, Carried (could be 6-1, 5-2, 4-3 etc) or defeated.
From November 20th 2007 to Nov 18 2008 we had 26 meetings, during those meeting there was a total of 584 motions made at our council.
Of those 474 were passed unanimously (81.2%) 86 were carried (14.7%) and 24 were defeated (4.1%).

By the way the suggestion that the votes had been 4-3, 92% of the time would require that 537 of those motions would have been carried.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Logging on the Atlas Road (Crowsnest Pass)

Tuesday night Dec 2, both SRD and Spray Lakes came to council to present their reasoning for logging on the Atlas Road.

We heard lots of interesting stuff on the pine beetle which I believe everybody recognizes is a problem. But I am far from convinced that taking out swaths of trees in some places no more than a few hundred metres wide are going to stop the pine beetle. Especially when you are talking about a creature no bigger than a grain of rice, that comes from BC on winds that can blow in excess of a hundred Km per hour.

I raised the question "will this area look similar to what the Kananaskis Road does today?" I was told no. "I asked what went wrong on the Kananaskis Road" I was told an investigation is taking place by SRD on that area due to the logging procedures not being followed.

I also asked "how do we ensure that it does not happen again?" I was assured once again that the logging plan will be followed on the Atlas Road. To which I asked "what happens if it isn't?"
To which I was told that the procedures would be enforced if they don't follow them, the unfortunate part is at that point the trees are gone.

Just a theory, and I may well be wrong but right now the lumber market is in the toilet, so mills are reducing their costs by logging the low cost area's, on flat ground, with a road going threw it close to Highway 3. If these Beetle infested trees were 30 km from the nearest road, on a 20 degree slope would we have been talking about them last night?.

By the way the Kananaskis Road was also logged by Spray Lakes Contractors!

Monday, December 1, 2008

What price will "WE" pay? Some comments and questions.

Crazy things are happening in Ottawa

Harper took things to the brink, he thought the opposition would blink, they didn't.
Did he think that they would bring down the government, force an election and then he would get the majority he so badly wants.
Shrewd decision by the opposition to form a coalition.
The opposition takes the position that the Tories did nothing to stimulate the economy.
Would they have been so outraged if the government was not taking away the parties political dollars? What did they do for the 140 years prior too the taxpayers funding them?
Some people argue that the taxpayer funds the parties so they can avoid being influenced by big business, large unions. When did that stop?
The coalition how much money will they put in to stimulate the economy?
How will the government pay for these programs? deficit, increased taxes, borrowing?
How will they choose who gets the money and who does not?
Will they pour Billions of dollars in to companies that will go bankrupt in six months anyway?
If the Taxpayers are being asked to share the pain, will the big companies employees? (All the way from the guy on the production line to the CAO)
What is the price of this coalition?
Who will the NDP look after?
The Bloc, will Quebec get it's fair share or more?

Taxpayers there will be a price to pay, and ultimately it will be the taxpayers. Do not be naive do not think that Harper pushed this to the edge for the betterment of the country, nor the Liberals, NDP, or the Bloc are forming this coalition because it is the right thing to do.

This is indeed all about power and who will have it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Logging in the Crowsnest Pass (Kananaskis View from the road)











Lot of concern out there right now about the impact of proposed logging on the Atlas Road in the Crowsnest Pass. Some of this concern is being driven by the logging that took place last year along the Kananaskis Road. Above are some pictures of where the logging took place up the Kananaskis Road about one km north of Coleman.

On Tuesday December 2th both SRD and Spray Lakes Sawmills will be appearing in front of council to make presentations regarding the proposed logging.

7pm at the municipal office in Coleman this is open to the public.








Monday, November 24, 2008

Where does my tax dollars go in the Crowsnest Pass

Did you know that in 2008 we are budgeted to spend $267,872 just to insure our Facilities, Vehicle's etc?


Did you know that between 2005 and 2008 the Municipality as spent $265,584 on local advertising?

In 2005 we spent $3,152,488 or 33% of our operating budget on wages and benefits.
In 2008 our budget for wages and benefits is $3,904,854 or 44% of our operational budget.

Where does my Tax dollars go in the Crowsnest Pass

For 2008 the following groups received the listed amounts from the taxpayers;

Allied Arts $25000
Anpass Exchange $5000
Bellcrest Community Association $5000
CCHS/Hakusu-Cho Exchange Program $2500
Citizens on Patrol $8338
Museum $20000
Municipal Library $81247
Crowsnow Riders Association $8000
Ecomuseum Trust $20000
CNP Marketing Consortium $15000
CNP Community Events Assoc $20000
Thunder in the Valley Fireworks $5000
Thunder in the Valley Policing $6000
Thunder in the Valley Traffic Control $6183
Thunder in the Valley Garbage + Toilets $4816
SPCA $ 35600
Economic Development $20000

Friday, November 14, 2008

Do people really care in the Crowsnest Pass?

Good question posed by one of my fellow bloggers, are we so full of apathy in the Pass?

I don't believe so, I believe that deep down most people do care but for the following reasons don't speak up.

A lot of people don't know what the issues are for one. Especially in a small town where you have limited media coverage. Who determines what the issues are? Council? Ninety nine percent of the population never goes to a council meeting so how does the public no what the issues are?

The local media tells them. Is the local media biased, do they only report the issues that matter to them?

Who sets the local agenda in this or any other small community? The politicians, the "in" crowd, Business Interests, The vocal minorities with access to the media and the politicians.

As the public given up on politicians. Look at voter turnouts in the last provincial, and federal elections.

Why is it that most people today can't tell the difference between politicians, there was a time where you knew exactly what the Liberal, Conservative, and NDP parties stood for. There are few people today that can tell you what the principles of those parties are. You have NDP people running for the Conservatives, or the Liberals. Does anybody remember which party Belinda Stronach ran for, does anybody remember what Bob Rae's principles are?

It takes a certain type of person to speak up, to stand up for what they believe in. Especially in a small town, do you know how many times in the last four years I have heard the following;
"If I wasn't in business here I would say..........."
"Do you think I want to get ripped apart by the media like ............ did"
"My kids go to that school with hers do you think I want to hear that crap for the next two years"
"What if I ever need council they won't forget"
"Between me and you I agree with you completely but don't tell my wife, mother in law, husband etc"

Do people feel that politicians only listen to them at election times?

Do people feel like politicians are only looking after their own interests? how many politicians leave political life and go straight to work for companies that benefited from there actions while they were a politician?

Why is it that only politicians know whats best for the community?

Why is it that politicians listen very closely to people, to groups, to information, facts that work for their political agenda, but those same people can present information on issues that don't match up with political agendas and they are brushed aside by those same politicians?

The above reasons are why a lot of people don't speak up here and elsewhere. But as I stated earlier I do believe people care sometimes it just takes the right issue to bring them out.

You do see an examples of that lnow and again, look at what's happening in Calgary right now a 25% tax increase was proposed over three years. The outrage as been very loud, some of the politicians are starting to hear the public.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Government Spending, the Crowsnest Pass can we (Should we) afford more taxes?

All around us we read day after day, bad news about the International, National, and local economies. Now is a time that governments at all levels need to be responsible, to throw taxpayers money at large companies, does that make sense?
If its to save a key business sector that drives the economy, that is a fundamentally sound business that just needs to hang on, to retool its operations, to develop new product lines, until we start to come out of the recession, maybe that makes sense. But to shore up companies that have made poor business decisions, that are not prepared to change, I don't believe that makes sense, you just delay the date of failure.

Before these companies get a single penny of taxpayers money they should be forced to show how they are going to whether this recession. And most importantly how they are going to pay the taxpayer back.

Talking about governments being responsible, look at the city of Calgary at a time of $56 a barrel oil they are increasing their municipal taxes 25% over the next three years. I have read the outrage in the Calgary papers, where else but government can you increase spending during difficult economic times.

Last year in the Crowsnest Pass we raised taxes 12% for one year.

I hope that when we start the budget process in the Crowsnest Pass we recognize that a quarter of our taxpayers are retired and another quarter are within 10-15 years of retirement. How can government at any level expect the taxpayers to pay more tax increases than the rate of inflation. For retirees the Canada Pension Plan tells you that you have to live with a 2-3% increase per year, for anybody that is living of investments in mutual funds how much additional income will they be receiving in the coming years. Why should government not live with a 2-3% increase of taxation? Once you have shown that you have done everything to be has lean as possible.

Its critical that governments at all levels act responsibly in these difficult times and not add to the taxpayers burden by increasing their spending/taxation to outrageous levels.

Coal Mining and the Crowsnest Pass

This appeared in todays Globe and Mail;

Teck Cominco's debt dilemma

A little more than three months ago, it looked like Don Lindsay was sitting pretty.
On July 29, his company, Teck Cominco Ltd., unveiled a blockbuster $14-billion (U.S.) takeover bid for Fording Canadian Coal Trust and Teck shares defied usual deal trading patterns by jumping 6 per cent to close at $42.85 (Canadian) on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
It was a false good omen.
Since then, everything has changed for Canada's largest base metals miner. A looming global recession has decimated metal prices at a time when Teck has loaded itself up with $9.8-billion (U.S.) in debt including a $5.8-billion short-term bridge facility to pay for the takeover.
Now shareholders are sweating over how the company will repay the bridge loan amid waning demand from steel makers for Teck's coking coal.
“If we'd known this was going to occur we might have done something differently, there is no question about that,” Mr. Lindsay, Teck's chief executive officer, said in an interview Tuesday.
Teck shares nosedived 20 per cent Tuesday on rumours that the company is planning a $3-billion stock offering – rumours that Mr. Lindsay said were bogus.
“I can tell you for certain that we are in no discussions with any dealer about doing an equity deal,” he said.
Still, the market meltdown has pushed Teck into a troubling financial position. Its coal will likely be fetching significantly less next year than the $275 a tonne customers agreed to pay in the 2008 coal year.
India's state-controlled steel maker is reportedly asking suppliers to reduce prices of current contracts to $100 a tonne.
While the coal from Teck's Elk Valley operations in British Columbia is not sold to India, world steel production has been slashed by more than 10 per cent and Chinese steel mills have cut output by between 30 and 50 per cent in response to the sudden economic downturn.
Mr. Lindsay said he is confident Teck's coal mines will continue to generate strong cash flow until the current coal year expires in April.
“That doesn't mean we haven't noticed the extraordinary reductions in steel production that have been announced around the world. We're watching things very closely but at this point all the contracts are being honoured,” he said.
Teck executives are working on a plan to reduce costs and raise capital to pay down the bridge loan. The proposals will be presented to the Vancouver-based company's board on Nov. 19.
Cutting Teck's dividend, which amounts to about $500-million a year, is one of several options.
“It's fair to assume that the board will review the dividend quite closely,” Mr. Lindsay said.
The company is also expected to curtail expenditures on expensive development projects such as the Fort Hills oil sands joint venture with Petro-Canada and UTS Energy Corp., as well as its Galore Creek copper project. Mr. Lindsay would not comment on specific assets but sources said the company is also likely to walk away from the Petaquilla copper project in Panama.
Teck is expected to sell its gold assets and could shut down money-losing mining operations such as its Lennard Shelf zinc mine in Western Australia, which was shuttered earlier this year.
At a forecast 2009 coal price of $180 a tonne, “we believe it will not be possible to fully repay the bridge loan of $5.8-billion, fund the capital requirements and make the required debt repayments for the term loan,” UBS Securities said in a recent note to clients.
BMO Nesbitt Burns analyst Tony Robson believes that Teck overpaid for Fording and has cut his rating on the company to a “sell.”
“BMO thinks the refinancing of the debt may prove difficult in the next 12 months and it all hinges on coal staying north of $150 per tonne,” Mr. Robson said in an interview.
For his part, Mr. Lindsay concedes that had Teck foreseen the market collapse it might not have pulled the trigger on a $14-billion takeover.
“The world is a different place. When we negotiated the deal in July, copper was at $4 a pound and coal was at $300 a tonne going to $400,” he said.
Teck Cominco (TCK.B)
Close: $8.75 (Cdn.), down $2.20

And later today;

Worried about the Teck Cominco Ltd.'s ability to repay $9.8-billion (U.S.) in debt, investors sent the company's shares lower for the sixth consecutive trading session.
Teck shares fell 20 per cent Wednesday afternoon to $7 each, mirroring Tuesday's losses. The selloff was sparked by rumours that Teck, Canada's largest base metals miner, would need to sell additional shares to service the debt, which was taken on to pay for its takeover of Fording Canadian Coal Trust.
The rumour was dashed by chief executive officer Don Lindsay, but his reassurances did little to calm investors, who have driven the shares down 79 per cent so far this year as the outlook for commodities such as coal has softened.
Scotia Capital analyst Lawrence Smith downgraded the company to “sector perform” from “sector outperform,” saying that despite Teck's “high quality assets” a decline in base metal prices could cause problems for the Vancouver-based miner.
Teck Cominco Ltd.

“We are uncomfortable with Teck's high debt level resulting from its acquisition of Fording, in an environment where commodity prices could remain at low levels for several years,” Mr. Smith wrote in a note to clients.
He left his 12-month price target unchanged at $26, slightly higher than the average 12-month price target of $25.51 set by the 17 analysts who follow the company, according to Bloomberg. Eleven of those analysts rate the shares as a “buy,” three as a “hold” and two as a “sell.”
Mr. Lindsay said Tuesday that executives are working on a plan to reduce costs and pay down the bridge loan, and the options will be presented to the company's board on Nov. 19. One option is to cut the company's dividend, a move that would free-up $500-million a year.
The company is expected to curtail expenditures on expensive development projects such as the Fort Hills oil sands joint venture with Petro-Canada and UTS Energy Corp., as well as its Galore Creek copper project. Teck is also expected to sell its gold assets.
In a presentation to investors in New York Wednesday, Teck executive vice-president Ron Vance said that in addition to its gold portfolio, Teck is considering selling a minority interest in various mines and development projects."
Meanwhile, BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. analyst Ian de Verteuil warned that the Teck loan is a “good example of how banks can find themselves at risk” from impaired loans. If commodity prices continue to fall – copper is 58 per cent off recent highs and coal is off 53 per cent – the deal could be one of the fastest “underwriting-to-default experiences in the history of banking.”
“If commodity prices continue to deteriorate, a problem could develop as early as March, 2009,” he said, adding Bank of Montreal and CIBC were the Canadian banks with the most exposure to the deal.
“To date, the [banking] industry has to some extent side-stepped the problems of structured credit. The question that still needs to be determined is whether the speed with which the current economic conditions are deteriorating will catch Canadian banks less prepared to deal with the old, traditional monster – loan losses.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coal Industry and the Worlds Economic Woes

Everybody recognizes the importance of the Coal Industry to the Crowsnest Pass, it is our single largest employer, the industry as seen record prices in the last year, strong growth in earnings and a lot of jobs created. Some people have stated that the we have nothing to worry about that our community is going to continue to grow, our population will get younger, our schools will be full of kids soon.
(Will the mines continue to hire? some believe as many as 250 people per year).
Is the industry immune to what's going on around the world, I hope so because after losing Arctic Spa at the beginning of the month I fear for our community.

Read the following;

Cia. Vale do Rio Doce, the world's largest iron-ore producer, is allowing customers to alter supply contracts as a global economic slowdown prompts steelmakers to scale back output
Vale said in an Oct. 31 filing it would cut Brazilian iron- ore output by 30 million metric tons a year because of a 20 percent drop in global steel output.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., the third- largest iron-ore exporter in Australia, said shipments may drop to as low as 16 million metric tons this year, because of weak demand and a temporary shutdown of its port and mine processing plant.

Teck Cominco Ltd., which last month gained control of the world's second-largest exporter of coking coal, fell the most in 20 years in Toronto on speculation that prices for the steel making ingredient will decline.

There have been a lot of rumors just in the past 24 hours about steel companies trying to renegotiate, and just about every other commodity is off today,'' Salman Partners analyst Haytham Hodaly said in a telephone interview. ``It doesn't mean that buyers will renegotiate with Teck; it's just not good for coal prices in general.''

- OAO Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel, Russia's third-largest steel producer, slashed fourth-quarter spending as metals companies seek lower costs and government help to compensate for a collapse in demand.
Several producers agreed to lower washed coal prices 30 percent for Magnitogorsk, while iron-ore producers have not yet agreed to a discount, according to the corporate newspaper.

Steel Authority of India Ltd., the nation's second-biggest producer, may lower output as the global financial crisis cuts car and construction demand and commodity prices tumble.

Steel Authority may join competitors around the world in slashing output as consumers delay purchases of homes and cars, driving down steel demand and prices. ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, will slash production by more than 30 percent in Europe and U.S.

Very scary stuff!

Economic Crisis hits the Crowsnest Pass

Local tub manufacturer shuts down facility



Bad news for the Crowsnest Pass and proves again that none of us are immune to the Economic crisis that is spreading across the world.



Arctic Spa will no longer be manufacturing hot tubs in the Crowsnest Pass.



"Oct. 31 the facility ceased production and approximately 15 people were let go. A skeleton crew of approximately six people will remain for about another month until all remaining product is sent out. "



The company had already released most of its staff back in the early summer."On June 6, Arctic Spa laid off 40 employees and retained a small staff of 20 due to economic conditions."



Its a sad day any time a community loses jobs weather it be a few or lots.

Nov 4th meeting Highlights Crowsnest Pass Council

Highlights

We had a delegation present their concerns about logging on the Atlas Road, this issue will be back on the November 18th agenda. Nobody is excited about the prospect of clear cut logging especially on the side of the Crowsnest Mountain.

CAO report notified that the Hillcrest Lagoon upgrades must be completed by the end of 2010, the only issue with this is the Municipality has not been provided any grant dollars by the province. (Cost minimum $4 million)

Community Services did receive some grant monies from the province;

$6600 for the Ski Hill
$11450 for the MDM acoustics
$17500 for the Flumerfeldt park bridge
$35267 for the Coleman Sportsplex Dry Sprinkler

Financial Update will be provided to us on Nov 18 outlining how administration will balance the budget for 2008.

Policy for Convention attendance was presented and passed by council, it basically puts a limit on the number of members of council that can attend conventions;

To a maximum of two for the FCM
To a maximum of three for the AAMDC
To a maximum of three for the AUMA

Will not turn around the municipality overnight financially but certainly sends the message that council is taking our financial situation seriously.

Motion was made that administration bring back the paper work to the next meeting to repeal bylaws #265 and #404 which will return the control of the Crowsnest Centre to the municipality.

Community Futures/Economic Development we received a letter from the board stating that "due to Western Diversification's mandate and focus for Community Futures, the position of Economic Development Coordinator can no longer operate from or be funded by the Community Futures Crowsnest Pass Office"

They also informed council that the $20,000 per year the taxpayers have provided towards maintaining this position will no long be accepted.
Council requested a meeting with the Community Futures board to see where we go from here.

Bylaws; The first reading of bylaw 770, to rezone the Crowsnest Centre land to commercial took place and surprisingly was passed by a vote of 4 to 3. (On the weekend I was called and asked why do those three guys always vote the same way on anything to do with the Crowsnest Centre? Good question I don't know)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Fiscal difficulties of the Crowsnest Pass (Secondary Homes)

Over the last week I have received a number of emails, read letters to the editor, and comments on other blogs regarding the taxing of "Secondary Homes".
The fact that we are even having this discussion is one of the the symptoms of the fiscal difficulties that our beautiful municipality faces. Money is very tight here we don't have a large commercial tax base, 85% of our tax base is residential. Out of the last ten years we have ran a deficit most of those years (Available at the Municipal Web Site). Every year getting a budget becomes more and more difficult, some years we get creative to make the numbers work (getting the province to take over our policing costs, refinancing debt over longer time frames). But there are only so many rabbits in the hat and sooner or later you have to take a look at the tough choices, so we look at several options; increasing taxes, cutting spending, increasing debt, or finding other sources of revenue.
We whacked our taxpayers with a 12% increase this last year, with where the world is going, and one third of our residents living on pensions or fixed incomes I hope council does not do that again.
Cutting costs I am told that nobody here wants reduced services, facilities etc, I believe there is a vocal minority in our community that believes the taxpayer should do everything for everybody at whatever cost, I believe we have to spend other peoples money in a responsible manner.
Increasing debt, really should be a last resort how many dollars have different levels of government given to the banks to finance their fiscal irresponsibility. Ottawa pays every year 20-30 billions of dollars just in interest to service its debt, what could the country do with that kind of money. Puts those dollars in to infrastructure, programs etc not banks bottom lines.
Finding other sources of revenue, council directed our administration to look at a number of areas; secondary homes, vacant land, user fees, provincial grants, etc.
The secondary homes argument was spear headed by Canmore, the debate can be looked at from both sides, yes "weekenders" pay full taxes and only use our services for a portion of the year, but because the Crowsnest Pass is not their primary residence they don't get counted in the census numbers, so we do not receive provincial/federal grants for those people which equates to roughly $1200 per year per person. If we have a thousand weekenders that translates to $1,200,000 per year.
I don't believe that the Crowsnest Pass should be looking at a tax on secondary homes, we are not Canmore we do not have big developments moving forward creating new tax base (outside of Ironstone)
The last thing we need to do in these difficult economic times is impose a tax that makes the Crowsnest Pass less attractive.
What we do need to do is get our finances in order, I would like us to bring in a corporate review that looks at our municipality and tells us, where we could be more efficient, the best places to spend our dollars, and where we are duplicating services.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spending Tax Dollars in the Crowsnest Pass

On October 21st council had a discussion regarding the policy of sending members of council to out of province conventions. (Specifically the FCM convention) At a previous meeting a request was made by council to bring back the costs of attending conventions.

The following includes; costs of rooms, meals, mileage, registration etc basically everything except the daily reimbursement that councilors receive for attending conventions. ($160 per day per council member)

2005---$17374
2006---$18141
2007---$33028
2008---$19269 (Not a complete total yet because there is one more convention in November)

If we continue our present practice these costs will climb because we are now a member of the AAMDC which we were not involved with during the years 2005-2007.

The numbers above total $87,812 the question that needs to be asked here does the taxpayer receive value for this expenditure?

There is no question that at the conventions there are indeed the opportunities to meet with "the right" people and discuss issues important to the Crowsnest Pass.

There is no question that at these conventions there are indeed the opportunities to attend informative sessions that further educate councilors.

The question should always be when you are spending other people's money is there a cheaper way to do it? Does all of council need to go? can two or three members of council meet "the right" people? can two or three members of council attend training sessions and report back to the rest of council?

The way its been done in the past is history now, moving forward are there better ways to do this? These are questions that need to be addressed?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Affordable Housing in the Crowsnest Pass

The affordable housing committee will be getting back together on October 30 to discuss finalizing the Needs assessment and where do we go from here.
Take a moment and have a look at what Grande Prairie as achieved.

http://bill-given.blogspot.com/2008/10/hearthstone-manor-opens.html

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crowsnest Pass Council Meeting October 21

Upcoming Highlights

First the Annual Organizational Meeting

Finance is looking for strategic direction heading into Budget

Public Works Cleanup took nine days longer than anticipated

Crowsnest Centre Boiler 4-5 weeks to order 1 week to put in

Direction from council on the future of the centre

Policy for out of province conventions

Repeal of the Bylaw 766 Crowsnest Centre Plebiscite

And many other procedural issues

Interest in politics and the way the Crowsnest Pass is ran check the meeting out starts at 7pm

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crowsnest Pass, Budget process!

Well Tuesday night (Oct 14th) we were in to the budget process, administration came looking for direction from council. So that all the numbers can be put together and prepared for a mid November presentation to council.
We looked at many different issues that are going to effect what we as the taxpayers will be asked to pay for in the coming year.
Several area's for income generation, ie taxation of secondary homes, and vacant land.
Grants, for weed control, MSI operational funding, Capital projects.
Offsite Levies we have commissioned a study by Stantec to review our off site levies, right now what we charge is probably outdated by ten years.
Develop able lands, council will look at what's available in 2009.
We discussed reviewing the future needs of our electrical system and preparing our reserves to accommodate those requirements.
Water, sewer, garbage and recycling, are these being fully supported by utility bills or are they being paid for out of general revenue? we will be provided with that information.
Franchise and user fees we will be reviewing, should the user be paying more of the cost of a service or should that burden fall on all taxpayers?
Reserves, should we being looking at building reserves? our reserves have dropped to very minimal levels, due to cancelling the Public Works shop we may have a total of $6-700,000 in reserves by year end.
Professional services, should we be tendering them out at set time frames?
Insurance Premiums, should we be insuring everything at replacement value? big cost for the municipality this year around $260,000.
Not for profit funding, every year we have many worthy groups that we give funding to, should we be reevaluating that process?
Economic Development what role should the municipality play? presently we give $20,000 a year to the Economic Development Board plus $15,000 to the marketing Consortium should that continue? should those funds be used differently?
Some other issues we have to look at regarding determining where we are at as a municipality and where we are going, Corporate review, Municipal Development Plan, Municipal Census, Community Enhancement Fund, etc, etc.

Second issue on the agenda was the Crowsnest Centre, at our previous council meeting we had requested information from both our administration and the Crowsnest Centre board so we could start moving forward on this issue, administration presented the information they had available. One councilor indicated that he will be making motions at the Oct 21st council meeting regarding the centre.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Federal Election Predication from the Crowsnest Pass

At Dissolution

Conservatives-- 127
Liberal---------- 95
Bloc------------- 48
NDP-------------30
Independent------3
Green------------ 1
Vacant------------4

My picks

Ontario C-53 L-36 NDP 16 Green 1
Quebec Bloc-52 L-11 C-11 NDP-1
Nova Scotia L-7 C-2 NDP-2
New Brunswick L-7 C-2 NDP-1
Manitoba NDP-6 C-6 L-2
BC C-17 NDP-10 L-8 Green-1
PEI C-2 L-2
Saskatchewan C-10 NDP-2 L-2
Alberta C-26 L-1 NDP-1
Newfoundland L-6 C-1
NWT L-1
Yukon L-1
Nunavut C-1

Total

Conservative-------131
Liberal--------------84
Bloc-----------------52
NDP-----------------39
Green----------------2

Friday, October 10, 2008

Recession (Crowsnest Pass View)

Have a read of this article I posted on June 3, not that long ago. I had people laugh at me then. We are seeing todate the results of a world living on credit, running budgets that are sustained by unrealistic growth levels. It does not matter who you are how much money you make or have at the end of the day you have to live within your means. And yes that includes all levels of government also.

http://crowsnestpasshome.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The People of the Crowsnest Pass have spoken, Loud and Clear!

The vote on Bylaw 766 was 986 for No and 453 for yes a clear rejection of the bylaw by 69%.
There was only one small area where the vote was a yes, that was on the mobile poll where out of 35 votes 19 were in favour.
Other polls results:
Advance Yes 44 No 81 65% rejection
Coleman Yes 148 No 256 62% rejection
Blairmore/Frank Yes 182 No 294 62% rejection
Bellevue/Hillcrest Yes 60 No 339 85% rejection

Those numbers speak loud and clear on where the public stands, people will start making the excuses, somebody stated the Yes side didn't run a campaign. Yesterday I had at least a dozen people tell me that the Crowsnest Centre Board went through the phone book calling people all day Sunday.

But all those excuses really are irrelevant both sides had the opportunity to do what they wished. Bylaw 766 is now done lets put it behind us and move forward.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Crowsnest Centre, Questions, Answers in the Crowsnest Pass

Over the last week I have been asked a lot of questions about the Crowsnest Centre. I will answer everything I can.

Isn't the Crowsnest Centre a tax payer owned and subsidized facility? The answer to both those questions is yes.

Then if the both of those are true why does council have such a hard time getting answers? I have been on council for four years and can not get figure that out. I have taxpayers that call me and say "what does it cost to rent in the MDM" I can tell you right now. Ask me about the Centre I can't tell you.

The Centre's day to day finances must run through the municipality don't they? No they don't.

Don't we have other facilities ran by societies on behalf of the municipality? Yes the swimming pool and the ski hill.

How are their finances different than the Centres? Because all of their payables and receivables are handled by the municipality. So we has councilors can receive that information by requesting it. I can tell you with those two facilities where your tax dollars have gone.

Don't you have council representation on the board? Yes there are two council members on the board Mayor Irwin and Councilor Taje.

Can't the council reps put an expectation on the board to provide you information that you request? Good question, many questions have been asked by councilor members for the last four years, very little information as come forth.

Who else sits on the board? President Lisa Sygutek, Vice President Cathy Haslam, Secretary/Treasurer Gini Decoux-Filipuzzi, Board Members Ted Moser, Diane Peterson, Renso Castellarin, and the two members of council listed above.

Isn't it a conflict of interest to have two members of the board sitting on council and voting on Centre issues? No all members of council sit on various boards and vote on decisions affecting those boards. It's only a conflict if the person is receiving some kind of financial gain by voting on those issues.

Who are all of the tenants? councilors have asked this question for the last four years, we received a list of tenants on August 19, 2008 it shows the Education Consortium, Adult Education + Literacy, Food Bank, Air Cadets, Integrated Comm Services, Compassionate Friends, and Global Training.

What do these tenants pay and how long do they have left on their leases? Don't know either the Centre won't tell us.

The Elderhostel program doesn't that bring in a lot of dollars to run the Centre? I have some vague numbers on four Elderhostel programs that show they barely broke even.

The Westcastle Ski Hill Lodging program that must bring in a lot of dollars? I am told that last year they averaged 18 people staying a night at $12.50 per person that equals $225 per night. While they stayed we had staff working there 24 hours per day at $8.50 per hour that works out to $204 per day. That leaves $21 per day to run the lights, heat, wash the sheets etc. How long do you think you will hang on to staff for at $8.50 per hour?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Vote goes ahead! In the Crowsnest Pass

Just hot of the wire, the court injunction to stop the vote on the Crowsnest Centre scheduled for Monday September 22th was denied. The vote will go ahead. To the taxpayer that asked me who pays for this legal action. At the end of the day as I said to Global TV its so ironic the taxpayers may well end up paying for both lawyers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"No" We have lots of money in the Crowsnest Pass!

Well going back to my previous comments about the state of financial affairs in the Crowsnest Pass. Reserves are near gone we have almost $3 million in debt. I suspect that we are going to run a significant deficit this year. We already have a $94,000 deficit from the Crowsnest Centre that we have to cover in this years budgetary process. We were told last night that our Municipal Employees wages are going to be a "minimum" of $250,000 over budget this year. We have done nothing this year of an extra ordinary manner so chances are those dollars will be spent next year again, unless of course we are prepared to do some things differently. The employee's also receive a 4.5% pay increase on Jan 1,2009 which will cost us an additional $160,000 next year. Thankfully we as a council had the sense to put an end to the new Public Works Shop for Coleman last night. (That would have cost us $160,000 per year for the next five years). Then I have a taxpayer that tells me yesterday he spoke to one of my fellow councilors who told him that we do not have any financial problems. Sure hope that was a case of miscommunication.
Maybe its time to realise that we can't maintain what we have been doing and look at some alternatives.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Crowsnest Centre, Concerns, Questions, Answers

The Building is in great shape.

Judge for your self in 2007 the municipality had Hirano Heaton conduct a study of the centre. There report is available at the Municipal Office and on the municipal web site at http://www.town.crowsnestpass.ab.ca/
It provides four options for moving forward on the building.

Option 1 Carry doing what we have been doing, with costly replacements required in the next 5 to 10 years.

Option 2 Complete renovation of the entire building. Cost to the taxpayer $3-4 million or $554,851 per year for the next 10 years @ 7%.

Option 3 Demolish the old hospital, replace the building and renovate the Nursing Home side. Cost to the Taxpayer $7-8 million or $1,109,702 per year for ten years.

Option 4 Replace both buildings. Cost to the taxpayer $10-14 million or $1,941,972 per year for ten years.

Where will all the present Tenants go?

We have numerous facilities that have space available, the MDM, the Elks Hall, Blairmore Seniors building, Blairmore Curling Rink. The taxpayer is required to pay for those facilities anyway why not fill them up.

Tenants having to move will leave the Pass.

As one tenant come forth yet and said that, they will leave the Pass if they are forced to move. Many tenants have stated that they do not have the money to relocate. In true hardship cases there may be a one-time requirement for the taxpayers to assist with relocation. That would not be an unreasonable request and expense to the taxpayers would be minimal.

The Centre will eventually pay for itself.

Past experience has shown that the Centre cannot pay for itself. There was the Nokomis Report of June 1989, which said it would be self-sufficient within three years. The Crowsnest Centre Learning Centre Corporation Marketing Strategy of 1991 that said it would be self-sufficient by 1993. The three-year business plan of 1997-1999 that showed a net income of $144,580 in 1999. The Marketing Plan of 2002, the Marketing Plan of 2003, the New Beginning plan for 1999-2004 that all showed a potential net income. Finally the latest Business Plan that shows the Centre not requiring any tax dollars by 2010.

Instead of showing any profits, the Centre received a loan for $131,000 from the Municipality in 1990. This was written off in 1996. In 1996 a Line of Credit of $150,000 was authorized. This had to be written off by the municipality in 1999, (the same year the Centre was expected to have net income of $144,580). In 2006 the municipality authorized a Line of Credit of $35,000. The Municipality was forced to pay this in 2008.

The municipality is in great shape financially

Not true in 2001 we had almost $3,000,000 in the bank and zero debt. At the end of 2007, we had debt of $2,700,000, if we maintain our 2008 budget commitments by the end of this year our reserves will be down to less than $360,000 at the end of the year. Taxes went up this year 12% on average with little relief in sight.

Why would the Municipality take over the Administration and operation of the Centre?
Check out the financial report for 2007 that we just received on August 19, below is a quote from the report.

“For a significant portion of the year, the accounting records of the Society were not adequate to support the recorded revenues and expenditures. In addition, our examination indicated deficiencies in internal controls over certain revenues and expenditures. Therefore, we were unable to satisfy ourselves that all revenues and expenditures of the Society had been recorded nor were we able to satisfy ourselves that the recorded transactions were proper. As a result, we were unable to determine whether adjustments were required in respect of recorded or unrecorded assets, revenue, net assets and cash flows”.

The words above are very clear, it’s important to read the rest of the letter that goes with the audit. (Page 3, 8)

The issue of accountability to your elected municipal council there have been numerous times when various members of council have requested information on Centre operations and finances. These requests have been ignored or council was told that we can not receive them for privacy reasons. Other municipal facilities provide this type of information on request.

At the time of authorizing the latest $35,000 Line of credit, concerns were raised about giving the centre the money. Conditions were placed in the bylaw that the Centre would provide council with monthly financial information. In fourteen month’s council never received that information.

The municipality set rental rates at the MDM facility of $4 per month per square foot for non-profit groups. Despite numerous requests we have never received the Centre’s rates. We recently calculated that the Chinook Education Consortium is paying 49 cents per square foot per month.

In past years Council requested information on the agreement between the Centre and the Westcastle Ski Hill, this we were never provided. New information recently received shows that we as the taxpayers are providing very cheap accommodation for the employees of a company that does not even pay taxes in the Pass. Rooms are rented to this group at $12.50 per person per night.

The Plebiscite

Was not an initiative of council. The majority of council was of the position that the old hospital was to be no longer used, the petitioners came forth and forced a plebiscite on the entire property.

Issues with the Plebiscite

If the Plebiscite is passed, council will be forced to maintain the Crowsnest Centre site for ten years. Passage of the plebiscite bylaw will require Council to commit funds to the detriment of all other municipal facilities. (Complex, Pool, Ski Hill etc) In essence your elected officials hands will be tied for the next ten years.

Why the changes to the Bylaw

What the petitioners brought forth has not been changed it constitutes the first part of the bylaw. The second part of the bylaw was added by the majority of council in an effort to:
(1) fix the problems with the above concerns, and make the Centre accountable to your elected officials and the tax paying public
(2) to show the public exactly what keeping the Centre open will cost them. This will allow the public to make a clear informed decision.
Why would anybody be afraid of providing the public with that information?

On Sept 22th vote “NO” to Bylaw #766

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Never ending quest for Financial Stability (Crowsnest Centre, Crowsnest Pass)

Talking to people that have been around for a long time that take an interest in local politics, some interesting comments have been made to me. When the initial concept of the Crowsnest Centre was first tossed around, one of the big selling features was that it would be self sufficient in a few years. Then it became a few more years, and a few more, then boom here we are 17 years later and its still not. Its time for all the politicians to stand up and say this is not and will not be the case, it's great to have dreams, and to put together business plans. But they are just numbers, they mean nothing unless they prove to be true. Discussing this with a local banker the first thing they do when they see a business plan, is determine if the assumptions used make sense, then they look at the history of the business to determine if the business as a credible track record. So why don't we do that with the Crowsnest Centre.
There was the Nokomis Report of June 1989, which said it would be self-sufficient within three years. The Crowsnest Centre Learning Centre Corporation Marketing Strategy of 1991 that said it would be self-sufficient by 1993. The three-year business plan of 1997-1999 that showed a net income of $144,580 in 1999. The Marketing Plan of 2002, the Marketing Plan of 2003, the New Beginning plan for 1999-2004. Finally the latest Business Plan that shows the Centre not requiring any tax dollars by 2010.
In addition to the above, the Centre received a loan for $131,000 from the Municipality in 1990 that was written off in 1996. The Line of Credit that was given to the Centre in 1996 of $150,000 that was paid off by the Municipality in 1999, (the same year the Centre was projected to have net income of $144,580). The $35,000 Line of Credit given to the Centre in 2006 that was paid off by the municipality in 2008.
Now as a councilor the above makes me very skeptical that any business plan would make sense, I argued prior to the last Line of Credit being granted that the taxpayers would be paying that off to. I was told, that was nonsense that the place was turning around and heading down the right track.
Can anybody show me why I shouldn't be skeptical every time this place provides a new set of numbers?
Once again its time for the Politicians to stand up and tell the Taxpayers that they are going to have to put money into this building every year, and chances are as it gets older the dollars are going to have to increase. It's the taxpayers choice lets not hide behind a petition that's worded so vaguely, its great to say that we are going to have a facility for the next ten years. But we have a duty to tell the taxpayers how we are going to run the facility, how we are going to make it accountable, and how we are going to pay for it.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why? The opposition to the Crowsnest Pass Centre Bylaw as Amended?

I am really struggling with this and keep asking myself why, why, why?

Personally I don't support keeping the centre and have always stated that?

But why are the proponents of the Centre so opposed to this bylaw? If you really want to hold on to the centre and ensure its future how does the admendments not do that?

Lets go through it again
Part 1: Allows for the question from the petition

Part 2a: Will place the centre under the administration and operation of the municipality, I have heard again and again that we place so much burden on our volunteer boards, I agree lets get administrators that are paid to run facilities to run this one. Do you know how many times we as a council have asked for information on the centre? At any council meeting I can ask for information on any other municipal facility, and receive it. Except for this one. That would not be the case if the centre was under municipal administration.

Part 2b: Administration must report back to council by year end, which option from the Hirano Heaton report council should proceed with to upgrade the centre. Does this not make sense if the centre needs upgrading and his will that not enhance its future (Minimum of ten more years?)

Part 2c: Municipal council will place into next years budget funds required for the upgrade determined in 2b. Does that make sense? if we are going to up grade any other municipal facility, wouldn't that show in the budget?


If this bylaw is passed this facility will be around for a minimum of ten more years (barring another pelebiscite) the building will need upgrades. (Does anybody disagree?) We cannot expect volunteers to run the centre for ten more years. The proponents of the centre only fear the admendments to the bylaw, because they know if we run this centre the way it should be ran as a municipal facility. We simply can not afford two community centre's, so they want to take away the admendments and keep running the centre the way it as been. If you think that's a wise choice read the auditor's statement below.

Crowsnest Centre's Auditors Report, Why Now

I was called today by a strong supporter of the Centre very upset with me for placing information on my blog about the Centre's audit last week just days before we vote. (Also called by a number of people looking for more information, which will be forth coming in the next few days). This person that called said to me don't you usually get audits early in the year, so you are only posting this now to influence the vote.
I don't see have a problem with providing information now, the public needs to be informed is that wrong?
Some members of council opposed posting the Hirano-Heaton report on the municipal web site, WHY? they also opposed providing the public that were interested in it, with a copy at the municipal office, WHY? they even wanted the public to pay for a copy. (We did $20,000 last year)
That report was done by a company from Lethbridge that as no political interest in the out come of this debate.
Going back to the original question why did I publish the Auditor's statement now and not back in the early part of the year? Simple, we as a council only received it last week. Don't take my word for it call the municipal office and check with them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Crowsnest Centre's Auditors Report

Back in April we received a prelimary report that told us the Centre would lose some where in the range of $64,000, last week we were finally presented the official report from the Auditor's, two concerns first of all the approximatly $64,000 as now grown to $91,000 and change. Second concern read the letter from the Auditor please determine for yourself how much comfort you receive from a statement like this below.


Young Parkyn McNab LLP
CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS

AUDITORS' REPORT

To: The Board of Directors of
Crowsnest Leaming Centre Society

We have audited the statement of financial position of Crowsnest Leaming Centre Society as at December 31, 2007 and the statements of operations, changes in net assets and cash flows for the year then ended. These financial statements are the responsibility of the Society's management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements based on our audit.
Except as noted in the following paragraph, we conducted our audit in accordance with Canadian generally accepted auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform an audit to obtain reasonable assurance whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit aIso includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation.

For a significant portion of the year the accounting records of the Society were not sdequate to support the recorded revenues and expenditures. Also, our examination indicated deficiencies in internal controls over certain revenues and expenditures. As a consequence, we were unable to satisfy ourselves that all revenues and expenditures of the Society had been recorded nor were we able to satisfy ourselves that the recorded transactions were proper. As a result, we were unable to determine whether adjustments were required in respect of recorded or unrecorded assets, revenue, net assets and cash flows.

In view of the possible material effects on the financial statements of the matters described in the preceding paragraph, we are unable to express an opinion whether these financial statements are presented fairly in accordance with Canadian generally accepted accounting principles.



Lethbridge, Alberta

March 26, 2008

Chartered Accountants










Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves

I know this isn't about politics, but here's a good news story about a kid that played hockey in the Crowsnest Pass with our AJHL team the Timberwolves. He was a good hockey player when he was here and hopefully he will do well in his pro career.


Sheahan moves on upBy Tony ClarkeAug 20, 2008, 05:38

With his first professional training camp about a month away, Brock Sheahan is hoping his skating ability and on-ice intensity will catch the attention of coaches.Earlier this summer, the Lethbridge native signed a one-year deal with the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. The Penguins, based in Ohio, are the minor-league affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins.The signing came on the heels of the physical blueliner completing his four-year run with the Notre Dame University Fighting Irish who, this past spring, came within a single victory of capturing the U.S. college hockey Division One Championship; a game they lost 4-1 to Boston College. Making the Frozen Four, as it is referred to, helped put Sheahan on scout’s radar.With his college playing days now over, he has his sights set on starting his pro hockey career by earning a spot on the Penguins roster.“Nothing is guaranteed, but there are a few spots available on the back end and my goal is to make the team,” said Sheahan, who at just under six feet tall and 188 pounds, describes himself as a solid, stay-at-home defenceman.“The past four years at college I was matched up with the other team’s top line and my job was to shut them down and stop them from scoring. It wasn’t my role to fill the net, but rather take care of my own end.”It’s this type of play the smooth-skating rearguard hopes to impress the coaching staff at Wilkes-Barre Scranton with in September.“I’m a solid skater and I think that will be the key for me. I won’t be a flashy player out there, but I feel being a responsible defenceman in my own end is what they were looking for when they signed me.”Sheahan has been training this entire summer, both on and off the ice, with his brother Brody Sheahan, who is currently skating with The College of Holy Cross in the NCAA Division One ranks.He has also been on the ice or in conversation during the off-season with other locals now playing hockey at the professional level. These players include former Lethbridge Hurricanes Kris Versteeg and Rob Klinkhammer, along with Taber’s Devin Setoguchi, who plays for the San Jose Sharks in the NHL.“Talking to these guys has really helped me know what to expect when I head into training camp. It’s only helped me better prepare myself.”The biggest adjustment he will have to make at the pro level, he adds, will be the simple fact players are more skilled and mature, noting he feels he has the speed and physical ability to compete.One thing Sheahan says he has going for him is the brief experience he gained with Albany of the AHL when college finished last April. It was just days after his Frozen Four run with Notre Dame that he signed an amateur tryout contract with Albany for the remainder of the team’s season.“I didn’t get to play in a game, but I took some pre-game skates and practised hard. This really helped me see what I need to do to play at this level.”Sheahan played all of his minor hockey here in Lethbridge, notably bantam and midget AAA. When he was 18, he moved on to play with the South Surrey Eagles in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.A year later, he manned the blueline with the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves of the Alberta Junior Hockey League before heading to school at Notre Dame in 2004, where just a few months ago he earned a finance degree.While Sheahan admits he one day hopes to be an NHL defenceman, for now his focus is getting the first season of pro hockey under his belt.“I’m looking forward to seeing what professional hockey is all about and proving I belong. If an NHL team came calling in the next few years that would be great. But right now I just want to get better and see if I can make a decent living playing this game, whether it’s in the minors, Europe in a few years, or hopefully the NHL.”

Development in the Crowsnest Pass

I have had a number of requests for an update on what's going on with development in the Crowsnest Pass. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here is my update, you can see for yourself what is happening.

Trout Landing on Crowsnest lake















Sunny View Estates in Coleman

















Kananaskis Wilds















Southmore Development















River Run

















PassMont















Valley Ridge Country Estates















Larkspur

















Timber Ridge










Ironstone












Saturday, August 16, 2008

Municipal Finances in the Crowsnest Pass and Fiscal Responsibilty

We have a problem the state of our finances, some people think I speak too much about the Crowsnest Centre but to me the Crowsnest Centre is just a small reflection of the much larger problem we have in the Crowsnest Pass. That is understanding that government cannot do everything for everybody (whether that is individuals or groups) without there being a cost. Yes, crazy concept here we are talking about fiscal responsibility and making tough choices.

I will talk about where we came from and where we were at the end of 2007 and where we are going.

As recent as 2001 we has a Municipality had zero long-term debt at the end of 2007 we had $2,167,472 in debt and by the time we pay, it off with interest the real cost will be $2,739,249.

At the end of 2001, we had $2,963,317 in reserves broken down into the following categories:
......................................2001........................ 2007...
Administration .................$336,706................ $25,985
Emergency Services ............$200,079............... $31,376
Road ..............................$183,073................ $512,620
Sanitary ..........................$280,000 ...............$ 531
FCSS ..............................$4,911.....................$ 5,640
Land/Housing ...................$958,071 ................$493,165
Recreational Facilities ..........$310,519................ $142,582
Electrical Distribution ...........$172,000................ $2,210
Millrate Stabilization ............$517,958................ $327,392

Total...................................$2,963,317..............$1,541,501

At the end of 2007, we had reserves of $1,541,501 a drop of $1,421,816, that is significant but
it gets worse our 2008 budget allowed for expenditures of roughly $1.2 million that were funded from reserves, which is going to leave us in a position of having less than $400,000 in reserves. Believe it or not it could get even worse we agreed to purchase a new rescue truck for the sum of $213,000 to be paid for with the monies received from a GST refund, the Federal Government appealed that refund if we lose that appeal the rescue truck will be paid for out of reserves now will be down to less than $200,000.

Now comes the really tough part besides the fact that we will have nothing left in our reserves, to maintain the same level of expenditures in 2009 where do we get the $1.2 million from. Taxes this year increased on average 12% are our taxpayers willing to do that again? Alternatively, are they going to demand that we become fiscally responsible and make tough decisions? We did not get to where we are today by accident!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Crowsnest Centre Facility Assessment Report

Is now available at the Municipality web site just go to: http://www.town.crowsnestpass.ab.ca/

Excellant letter to the editor on the report: http://www.crowsnestpasspromoter.com/Letters/index.html


Please remember that the proponents of keeping the Centre will attempt to discredit this report, dispite the fact that they have had this report for the last nine months and found no fault with it previously.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Crowsnest Centre where it began!

In June 1989 Nokomis Consultants presented a report on the development of the Crowsnest Centre. The following are quotes from that report. You the reader decide if these predications proved to be true or not.

“The old Blairmore Hospital and Nursing Home buildings would be renovated to standards consistent with the markets for learning facilities that the Centre will pursue”

“To develop the centre to an optimal condition $4 million in capital costs are required. These investments would be staged $2 million initially, $1 million at year 2, and $1 million by year 4”

Executive Summary Page 6

“At or around the 5th year of operations, there should be: 25 new full-time equivalent jobs, $490,000 annually in local expenditures, $45,000 in net revenue at the Centre”

Community Benefits Page 7

“The Municipality should invest in the project to help carry the start up years. Approximately $230000 would be required over 3 years”

Organization and Partnerships Page 8

“The Banff Centre would be the major Competition, although indications are that clients would welcome an alternative, comparable facility to consider”

Markets and Marketing Page 10

“The final years of Community Initiatives and Municipality support would occur in Years 2 and 3”

Key Points Overview of the Business Plan Page 68



Check out the Banff Centre Facilities @ http://www.banffcentre.ca/facilities/
I’m sure the market place will choose our old hospital over this aging facility.

Check out Randall's headlines and some interesting follow up comments

I found this very interesting



http://randallwhiteside.blogspot.com/2008/08/headlines.html

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Very good editorial from this week's local paper

Check the following out, its does not take a political position either way on the issue, just fair and reasonable comment.

http://www.crowsnestpasspromoter.com/Editorial/index.html

Reinforces once again that it is not unreasonable to provide the public with all the information before they vote.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Crowsnest Centre Bylaw Amended and Passed by Council on July 22, 2008

Below is the bylaw that was passed on July 22, 2008 by the Council at their meeting. This is what the taxpayers will be voting on Sept 8 (Advance) and Sept 22 (Regular Poll).
Controversy at the meeting because some of council wish to keep the bylaw as vague as possible. We all know that I have been strongly opposed to maintaining the Centre and unlike some people I do not flip flop on issues to satisfy the vocal minority. But a group went out with a petition, the petition was ruled valid, so even though I disagree with that petition I respect it. So the bylaw was designed to determine if the Crowsnest Centre should be maintained for the next ten years, by the taxpayers of the Crowsnest Pass.
Logic behind the bylaw I shall explain;
Part 1 represents the wishes of the petition to maintain the land in question "for public and community purposes as a Community and Learning Centre and for providing other municipal services".
Part 2 further enhances and ensures the continuing existence of the above, how?
2a For years I have heard that we have put too much pressure and burden on a unpaid volunteer board to run the Crowsnest Centre, I agree volunteers come and go what would happen if the board resigned tomorrow it happened prior to the last referendum, it would jeopardize the future of the centre as a Community Learning Centre.
The employees, I have heard many times over the years that other municipal facilities are maintained by our employees that the Centre is at a distinct disadvantage by having to hire employees for budgetary reasons at lower wages. As the building becomes older to ensure its survival as a Community Learning Centre we need to provide adequate labour to maintain it.
We should not be counting on volunteers to clean up mold, that should be done by paid employees.

2b In October 2007 council received a report from Hirano Heaton regarding the state of the Crowsnest Centre, the report outlined many problems with the Centre it also gave Council four options to maintain the Centre moving into the future. If the taxpayers decide to keep the centre then we need to move forward on these options, that should happen, that is how we ensure the long term future of the Centre as a Community Learning Centre.

2c On December 5 2007 I asked the question of the head of the Crowsnest Centre Board "Do you feel over the years the Centre as been underfunded?" The response I received was "Yes Grossly" If the taxpayers of the Crowsnest Pass choose to maintain the Centre as a Community Learning Centre, then I say we must pay for it. Do not allow the politicians an easy way out by allowing it to be properly funded somewhere down the road. If you go out and buy a house the bank will tell you what it will cost you and when you will start paying for it. You don't get to have the house and pay for it when you like.

If the taxpayers want and support the Crowsnest Centre why would they have a problem with the above. The measures above will if the taxpayers so choose ensure the continuing existence and operation of the Crowsnest Centre Property as a Community and Learning Centre and for providing other municipal services.

Once again I would like to say that I "will not" be supporting this bylaw, I have consistently argued that we as a community, one don't need two community centres and two can't afford them.
And that is exactly why the opposition to this bylaw is so opposed, because they know if the public knows the real cost of maintaining this site the majority will vote against it to. Lets give the public all of the information available and allow them to make a "informed" decision.



MUNICIPALITY OF CROWSNEST PASS

BY-LAW NO. 766, 2008


A BY-LAW OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF CROWSNEST PASS, IN THE PROVINCE OF ALBERTA, TO HOLD A PLEBISCITE AS REQUESTED BY A SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF ELECTORS ON THE MATTER OF THE ONGOING OPERATION OF THE CROWSNEST CENTRE AS A LEARNING AND COMMUNITY CENTRE.

WHEREAS, pursuant to Part 7 of the Municipal Government Act, being Chapter M-26 of the Revised Statutes of Alberta, 2000 and any amendments thereto, the electors of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, on May 23, 2008 presented a petition to the Municipality requesting Council to bring to a public vote a Bylaw ensuring the continuing existence and operation of the Crowsnest Centre property (Plan 731227, Block H, containing 3.51 hectares) to be used for public and community purposes as a Community and Learning Centre, and for providing other municipal services;

AND WHEREAS, on June 19, 2008 the Chief Administrative Officer of the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass declared the petition sufficient and presented his declaration to the next regularly scheduled Municipal Council meeting on June 24, 2008;

NOW THEREFORE THE COUNCIL OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF CROWSNEST PASS DULY ASSEMBLED ENACTS AS FOLLOWS:

1. That the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass ensure the continuing existence and operation of Crowsnest Centre property (Plan 731227, Block H, containing 3.51 hectares), be used for public and community purposes as a Community and Learning Centre and for providing other municipal services.
2. To enhance and further ensure the continuing existence and operation of the Crowsnest Centre as a learning and Community Centre, and to have the ability to provide other municipal services the following steps must be taken;
a) The operation of the entire facility will be administrated directly by the municipality, and will be maintained and operated by municipal employees.
b) To provide the citizens of the Crowsnest Pass with a facility functionally able to provide municipal services such as a Community and Learning Centre and any other municipal services deemed necessary. Administration shall determine and report back to Municipal Council by no later than December 31, 2008 the most viable option outlined in the Hirano and Heaton report of October 2007.
c) Municipal council will place into the 2009 budget all funds required to upgrade the facility as per the Hirano and Heaton Report of October 2007.




This Bylaw shall come into effect upon final reading.





Read a first time this day of , 2008.



Mayor




Chief Administrative Officer


Read a second time this day of , 2008.





Read a third time and finally passed this day of , 2008.




Mayor



Chief Administrative Officer

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Great weekend in the Crowsnest Pass

Come on down to the Crowsnest Pass this weekend, see all the great events we have scheduled for "Rum Runner Days". Many different groups, many people put a lot of hard work and time in to making this a great weekend. Events from Friday to Sunday, check out the whole weekend at the following address http://www.rumrunnerdays.com/Forms/RRDAYSb2008.pdf. If you looking for something to do and have a few spare moments check out the underground mine in Bellevue, or the Muesum in Coleman both well worth the time.
See you in the beautiful Crowsnest Pass this weekend.

One Councilor's Response to issues in the Crowsnest Pass

Have not blogged for a while, have been very busy but it is time to speak, in response to my fellow blogger’s from the Crowsnest Pass, in addition to comments I have received from the public at large, lets jump around to the various issues.

Change do I believe in change? Of course, is change happening fast enough? Does it ever! Change is going to take the full commitment of many different people. Yes, it has to be more than just talk. It needs to be about action.

Due to changing demographics, Facilities that were required years ago may not be required today. To change, first we have to admit that the community is different; Census Canada for the last twenty-five years has shown that our community is getting older; school enrollment numbers shows the same thing. However, we have people in leadership positions who believe that we are getting younger.

Economic development, first we have to admit that we have a problem. Look, around we made the mistake of putting all of our eggs in one basket. The majority of Council took the position that expansion of our community would solve the problems. I agree to a point, development brings new money into the community creates new assessment, the only problem we have is development should be part of the solution not all of it. Drive around look at our new developments, see how much infrastructure as been put in place, how many basements poured, how many lots sold. It is scary.

Secondary Industry; There are people in this community that believe we are wasting our time pursuing secondary industry that nobody will come here. I still strongly believe that Council, Economic Development and the local Chamber of Commerce should be working together to achieve this goal. Does this get back to leadership of course?

Leadership A key factor for any community, does our leadership need to change? Keep in mind the last election, out of 2100 votes for the Mayor’s position the challenger received 43 per cent of the vote not a solid endorsement of the incumbent by any means. Change of leadership can happen in several ways.

At the ballot box, which it will eventually, or from within? Council’s direction can change if the will of any four or more councilors so wishes. How does that happen, by individuals willing to stand up to the ways things have always been done? What holds people back from standing up for change? The following issues.
Anybody that has ever sat on a council knows several things; those that have been in power for a long time will not relinquish it freely. Vocal self interest groups that have been looked after for years by that leadership will also fear a change of direction. I have seen on more than one occasin a politician change his position because he received half a dozen calls prior to a vote from that vocal minority.
The public image; how many times do you hear or read comments from feeble mined people, that don’t have a intelligent counter argument on a issue so they resort to all they have left, running around town making statements “what’s in it for him” or try to create an aura of suspicion about a person that opposes their views.
The lust for power, anybody that has been around political circles knows that the moment somebody sees them selves as the appointed successor he will work closely with the one doing the appointing. It is almost comical, to hear a councilor, who as voted the party line on most major issues in the last term, suddenly take exception because a majority of council with similar
view’s on an issue comes together to opposes his view.

What does it take to bring councilors together, to move in a different direction? Issues, that forces those same councilors to stand up and take a position. This is where you find out who the real people are, those that will not vote a certain way because the vocal minority exerts pressure, and believes it knows what is best for the rest of the voters, those that will not be swayed for future gain. We have that opportunity today in the Crowsnest Pass with the Crowsnest Centre four councilors have stood up and said that we do not need this old, under utilized, worn out building. There begins an opportunity for a change to the good old Status Quo.

Tube Park; it is true as you can see in my recent blog of June 27th should we look at options to bring something new in, yes but we do have to be very cautious that we don’t jeopardize our ski hill.



Albert Stella Arena; Council knew back during the budget process that the arena would not open until January 1st. All of a sudden because user groups have come forth with concerns some of council will find an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon.


Community Enhancement; Do we have a duty to improve the appearance of our community? Of course, we do, the Crowsnest Pass is one of the most beautiful places in the world and ninety percent of our residents look after their homes and businesses. Leadership needs to lead on this issue and work with other groups to futher enhance our community.

Change; will happen one issue at a time initially, until people realize that change is not such a bad thing that it is possible. Western civilization will not end because a program is altered, or a facility is no longer used in the Crowsnest Pass.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Interesting Possibilty for the Crowsnest Pass

Tuesday night we had a group approach council about taking over our municipal owned ski hill to turn it into a year round facility. Basically Tuesday's presentation was just to see if council had any interest in pursuing the concept. We directed them to go to the next step and bring a proposal back to us in writing.
Lots of issues with this little gem of a facility both good and bad, the taxpayers of the Crowsnest Pass have put a lot of money in to this hill we have to protect that investment. In the last four years the hill as seen a remarkable turn around and is being utilized like it hasn't been in years. This was achieved by making the ski hill very accessible/affordable for families, that affordability must be also protected.
There is no question that the Crowsnest Pass needs a major attraction to bring people in, would some type of tube/water park draw people here? I believe so, there are 12-15000 cars passing by our community every day in the summer. The investment for this type of project will be enormous, it is important that we make sure this group or any other group stepping forward has solid financial backing, the where with all to start and finish a project of this size, and then the ability to operate it until the business builds up to a sustainable level.
We by all means should be prepared to look at this idea but we have to proceed very cautiously there are few communities that have the luxury of this type of facility right in there back yard.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Crowsnest Centre, the Process as Begun

On Tuesday night June 24 the results of the petition were presented to council, well sort of, we were told that the petition was successful. The number of signatures on the petition? Who knows, the number of names that were valid or invalid? Who knows? Despite numerous requests for this information, the response council received was “the petition was sufficient” Should we be surprised? it happens again and again whenever requests for information are made about the Crowsnest Centre the wall of silence comes up, we can’t tell you because of firstly FOIP, then PIPA. Anyway, what does this mean? Sept 22nd we will be having a public vote on a bylaw that will determine what? The Statement on the petition was “bring to a public vote a by-law ensuring that the continuing existence and operation of the Crowsnest Centre Property (Plan 731227 Block H, containing 3.51 hectares) be used for public and community purposes as a Community and Learning Centre, and for providing other municipal services” what does all that mean? Well there will be many questions asked and many statements made over the next three months, some will be true and some will be “slightly” exaggerated. This is sure to be a fully charged, interesting political debate.
Cost to the taxpayers of the Crowsnest Pass $13-14000.